Literature Festival at Sea

Literature at Sea

In association with Cheltenham Literature Festival, The Times and The Sunday Times.

10 November 2019


“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.”

JD Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

Until now.

We invite you to join the inaugural Queen Mary 2’s Literature Festival at Sea, in association with Cheltenham Literature Festival and The Times and The Sunday Times. This exclusive voyage offers book lovers an opportunity to join some of the best-loved authors and thinkers on both sides of the pond – and the smartest journalists – aboard Queen Mary 2 as you sail from New York to Southampton on a Transatlantic Crossing.


Bringing Cheltenham’s 70-year track record of curating world-renowned festivals to the sumptuous surroundings and elegant spaces of the Queen Mary 2, this special programme celebrates the written word in all its variety with events taking in literature, art, film, history and politics, all underpinned by the quality of delivery that is Cheltenham’s hallmark.

  • Meet the experts.

    Meet the experts.

    Hear your favourite authors speaking about their life in writing and hear them read excerpts from their work in a series of fascinating conversations expertly hosted by some of Cheltenham’s most popular moderators.

    Special guests

  • Meet the literary editors.

    Meet the literary editors.

    Meet Robbie Millen and Andrew Holgate, the literary editors of The Times and The Sunday Times, as they share their Christmas reading choices and take us behind the scenes at their respective publications.

    On board experiences

  • On board book group.

    On board book group.

    Specially selected by the Festival team with the literary editors of The Times and The Sunday Times, the book title will be sent to you in advance, giving you plenty of time to relish your read before joining the on board book group discussion, led by James Naughtie.

    On board experiences

Couple enjoying entertainment, champagne and chocolates in the theatre
Guest enjoying relaxed reading in the library

On board events.

Wake in the morning and tune in to an inspirational poem or reading for the day in your stateroom, and perhaps join The Times journalists over breakfast to review the day’s headlines.

Meet a favourite author in the largest library at sea for a glass of champagne; relax at one of our literary afternoon teas, or simply indulge in some bibliotherapy with bespoke advice on your reading choices from our on board experts.

In a series of workshops with best-selling writers and experienced journalists, discover how to research your novel, practise your calligraphy, brush up on your public speaking or even write your memoir.

Enjoy a special series of film screenings celebrating some of the finest book to film adaptations, with introductions by knowledgeable critics.

More to be announced…

Special guests.

We are delighted to reveal the first names to join our festival line-up, who'll be joined by many more stars in the literary firmament, leading historians and cultural commentators, offering a unique and inspiring programme of events featuring stimulating conversations, interactive workshops and more.

  • Sebastian Faulks

    Sebastian Faulks

    Sebastian Faulks is one of Britain’s foremost novelists, his books ranging from the classic Human Traces (2005) and Birdsong (1993), consistently voted one of the nation’s favourite books, through to more light-hearted ventures, such as the Ian Fleming centenary James Bond novel Devil May Care and a tribute to P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells.

  • Louis de Bernières

    Louis de Bernières

    Louis de Bernières is the bestselling author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best Book in 1995. His most recent books are The Dust That Falls From Dreams, Birds Without Wings and A Partisan’s Daughter, a collection of stories, Notwithstanding, and two collections of poetry, Imagining Alexandria and Of Love and Desire.

  • Robert Harris

    Robert Harris

    Robert Harris is the author of twelve bestselling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost, Lustrum, The Fear Index, An Officer and A Spy, Dictator, Conclave and Munich. Several of his books have been adapted, including The Ghost, which was directed by Roman Polanski and Imperium which was adapted by Mike Poulter for the Royal Shakespeare Company‎. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages.

  • P.J. O'Rourke

    P.J. O'Rourke

    P. J. O’Rourke has written eighteen books on subjects as diverse as politics, cars, etiquette and economics. Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance both reached #1 on the NYT bestseller list. He is contributing editor at the Weekly Standard, H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute, and editor-in-chief of American Consequences.

  • Elizabeth Strout

    Elizabeth Strout

    Elizabeth Strout is the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge, The Burgess Boys, a NYT bestseller, Abide With Me and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/ Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize.

  • James Naughtie

    James Naughtie

    From 1994 until 2015, James Naughtie was one of the main presenters of Radio 4’s Today programme, presenting his last programme in December 2016. Since then he has become the programme’s special correspondent. Naughtie had anchored every BBC Radio UK election results programme since 1997 and had worked on every US presidential election since 1988.

  • Mark Billingham

    Mark Billingham

    Mark Billingham is one of the UK’s most acclaimed and popular crime writers. His series of novels featuring DI Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel of the Year Award. His debut novel, Sleepyhead was published in 2001 and was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade. A television series based on the Thorne novels starred David Morrissey as Tom Thorne and a major new drama based on In The Dark and Time of Death was broadcast on the BBC in 2017.

  • Victoria Hislop

    Victoria Hislop

    Victoria Hislop is the bestselling and award-winning author of six books, including The Island, The Return, The Thread, The Sunrise, Cartes Postales from Greece, and a collection of short stories, The Last Dance and Other Stories. Her books have been translated into more than 35 languages.

  • Damian Barr

    Damian Barr

    Damian Barr is an award-winning writer, journalist and host of his own infamous Literary Salon. Maggie & Me, published by Bloomsbury, was BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and the Sunday Times made it their Memoir of the Year. Permanently in search of the perfect martini, Damian writes for the Sunday Times magazine. He covers politics and culture in his monthly Big Issue column and has been a columnist for Attitude. Broadcaster and presenter Damian has hosted Radio 4’s Front Row and is a regular guest and contributor across BBC platforms including presenting The Writers of Rye for BBC TV.

  • Andrew Holgate

    Andrew Holgate

    Andrew Holgate has been the Literary Editor of The Sunday Times since 2008. Before that he was Deputy Literary Editor for nine years. He is the Editor of two books, and has been a judge on a number of literary prizes, including the Samuel Johnson Prize and Somerset Maugham Awards.

  • Emma Tucker

    Emma Tucker

    Emma Tucker started her career at the Financial Times as a graduate trainee, eventually becoming Editor of the FT Weekend. She joined The Times as Associate Features Editor, before taking over the editorship of Times2 a year later. After five years she took up a new role as Editorial Director. Emma was appointed Deputy Editor of The Times in October 2013.

  • Robbie Millen

    Robbie Millen

    Robbie Millen has been Literary Editor of The Times since 2013. He has also been deputy comment editor and a features editor for the Times. In the deep mists of time, he was a journalist at The Spectator and the Daily Express.

  • Anna Murphy

    Anna Murphy

    Anna Murphy joined the Times as Fashion Director in 2015, having previously been the launch editor of Stella magazine at the Sunday Telegraph. She considers herself proof positive that a love of clothes and of books can happily co-exist in one well dressed and well-read form.

  • Ben Macintyre

    Ben Macintyre

    Ben Macintyre is the multimillion-copy bestselling author of books including Agent Zigzag, Operation Mincemeat, A Spy Among Friends and SAS. His next book, The Spy and The Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War is published by Viking this September. He is a columnist and Associate Editor at The Times, and has worked as the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He regularly presents BBC series based on his acclaimed books.

  • Ella Berthoud

    Ella Berthoud

    Ella talks regularly at festivals and events, prescribing literature to whoever loves reading and needs some literary love. Ella set up the bibliotherapy service at The School of Life in Bloomsbury with co-founder Susan Elderkin in 2008. They then went on to write The Novel Cure: an A-Z of Literary Remedies and The Story Cure: How to keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise, now published in 20 countries.

  • Julia Wheeler

    Julia Wheeler

    Julia Wheeler is an experienced journalist and interviewer who worked for the BBC for more than 15 years, including as Gulf Correspondent. She continues to work as a freelance journalist. An alumna of the Faber Academy, Julia has been chair and interviewer at several festivals including Cheltenham (Literature and Science). Julia wrote the award-winning book Telling Tales: An Oral History of Dubai, capturing stories of court intrigue, pearl diving and gold smuggling, plus the early days of education and banking.

10 November 2019, Queen Mary 2

New York, statue of liberty

Extend your stay in New York.

Make the most of your Transatlantic Crossing with a three night stay in New York prior to your sailing on the Literature Festival at Sea. Fly direct to New York and experience all the magic from the moment you arrive.

Package fare includes 3 night pre-cruise stay, transfers and Literature Festival at Sea voyage.

Inside (IF grade) £1,798pp
Balcony (BZ grade) £1,998pp
Grill Suite (P2 grade) £3,628pp

Stay at the Mariott Marquis, set in the heart of Times Square on West 46th Street and Broadway.

Hotel highlights include:

Deluxe air conditioned room featuring Marriott’s signature bedding, marble bathroom, coffee and tea facilities, in room safe and cable / satellite TV

Savour a meal at The View Restaurant & Lounge, New York City’s only revolving restaurant and lounge

Relax on the outdoor terrace overlooking Broadway for drinks and small plates at  Broadway Lounge & Terrace, perfect for a quiet drink after a day of sightseeing, or for a pre-show get-together. Breakfast options available.

Check-in: 4.00pm, Check-out: 11.00am


To book this package please call 03453 550300


*Fares based on 2 people sharing and include flight to New York, transfer to hotel, 3 nights room only in a Deluxe room at the Marriott Marquis, transfer to ship and cruise. Single supplements and room upgrades available on request.